I’m a reader of Theory of Reddit.

This thread, entitled “Who’s manipulating Reddit and how? Who’s buying votes.” is very interesting.

Farshad signed up for a program. He upvoted a link. He’s eligible to get paid 8 cents.

Read on.

This is all unverified.

I’m inclined to believe that Farshad is genuine, owing to the fact the account has 2 years of tenure and has reddit gold. It seems genuine. And so, if it’s a troll, this would be a pretty damn esoteric one.

It stands to reason that somebody is executing the experiment.

To the author’s credit, he proposes a few ways that a machine could detect paid upvoting, including comment quality and concurrency among recently created accounts. It would be feasible to build a program to detect such anomalies.

There is no trained set to verify that those anomalies are clusters of paid redditors. That is to say, we could map such anomalies, but there would be no verification that people were paid to upvote. All a scientist could really do is record the names and track through the reddit system, then do a difference in difference study (RFM to start, valence and quality scoring to follow) among a random sample of redditors outside the suspected paid set.

Understanding the relative behavior could help Reddit systematically reduce such manipulation if it proves harmful to readership retention and redditor satisfaction.


In as much as we like to think of Reddit as a content paradise, it is really a link graveyard. A tiny fraction of links submitted ever really gain popularity. Overcoming the hump, getting enough votes in the ‘new’ submissions area, a region only really actively visited by the hardcore and bored, is quite a challenge.

Paying for things is how marketers cause certainty of exposure. It’s one of their levers. As such, it should be no surprise that somebody out there is exploring whether or not upvote incentives work.

I’ll leave the normative judgement to the reader.

Price and Value

The price of a reddit upvote could/should include other variables, like how many upvotes have already accrued and whether or not the content has made it to the front page already. In other words, there’s a marginal value component here.

Irrelevant or boring content is subject to the usual caveats around downvote pressure, an area of research that hasn’t received much play, largely because the mechanism is absent from more mature social networks (Facebook, Twitter), and only relatively recently (in academic terms) introduced on YouTube.
So, the collective knowledge is scattered and largely unpublished.

It should be noted that Reddit already offers paid advertising that has a lot more certainty. Well known brands are advised to stick to that instead of going all black-hat with such games.

The price of a Reddit vote isn’t 8 cents. It’s a lot more complicated than that.


I’m Christopher Berry.
I tweet about analytics @cjpberry
I write at christopherberry.ca

Related: If you haven’t read it, it’s new to you! Check out the five part series on Who’s Downvoting You On Reddit.